Curtis Sloan spent 20 years in the Navy. He’s a graduate of both culinary school and Norfolk State University. He’s been a nurse’s aide. He’s worked at a foodbank and in college football as a strength and conditioning coach.
With a resume like that, you could say Sloan has the background to thrive professionally at any number of places.
But the truth is he loves right where he is – at VersAbility Resources.
Four years ago, Sloan found VersAbility Resources, a nonprofit with a mission of supporting people with disabilities to lead fulfilling and productive lives. Sloan oversees a staff of 17 people with disabilities as Site Manager of the Dam Neck Galley in Virginia Beach, which serves up to 1,600 meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to young sailors in training.
“I look at this as more than a job; it’s a higher calling,” he says. “I believe God put me here for a reason. I could be at a lot of different places, but I really love coming here. I love the work I do helping these people. I like how they look at me and how they look forward to seeing me. I have a connection with them. They know when they come here, Curtis is here to take care of them and make it work.”
They make it work together. In addition to preparing and serving food, Sloan and his team are responsible for sanitation and, since he arrived, inventory. He relies on a system he put in place shortly after arriving on the job that accounts for supplies.
“They didn’t have a system before,” he says. “Now we know what we have in stock and what we need.”
Sloan didn’t make immediate changes when he accepted the position. He followed the advice a senior chief once relayed.
“He told me to sit back and watch everything for 30 days,” he says.
By doing that, Sloan learned about the strengths of the VersAbility Resources team members and their goals. He wanted to put them in positions where they could excel and increase the efficiency of the operation.
Sloan focused on building a foundation so the team could grow together.
“This is somewhat of an extended family for me,” says Sloan, father to four adult children and passionate about his two grandchildren. “The people I work with, I treat them like people. There’s no half stepping over here. If they can’t do something, I find out why and we fix it.”
The Dam Neck Galley has twice received Five-Star accreditation and is nominated for a Ney Award. Five-star accreditation recognizes food service excellence by evaluating key areas in customer service, cleanliness and management. The Captain Edward F. Ney Award for food service excellence is given to the best US Navy galleys among those that earn a five-star rating from a Navy evaluation team.
“That’s what we’re going for next,” Sloan says.
The Troy, New York, native retired as an E-6 in the Navy, where he initially planned to be a corpsman. The waiting list for that was so long that Sloan switched to mess specialist, later renamed culinary specialist. The first grandchild of five aunts, Sloan learned from them in the kitchen and had a knack for seasoning food just right thanks to his strong sense of smell.
He doesn’t cook so much working at VersAbility Resources, but the camaraderie at the Dam Neck Galley is similar to what he experienced in the Navy.
“It helps me keep my military bearings that I never lost,” he says. “I get a chance to give back.”
Often, that means taking the time to get to know every one of his staff members. He takes pride in getting to know everyone on a personal level and delights in their sharing details about their lives. They call him Mr. Curtis and he’s eager to share in their milestones and family news.
“I find skills in them that they didn’t realize they had,” says Sloan, who also empowers his team. “Everybody knows what they need to do. I depend on my leads a lot. They are pretty much me when I’m not in the building.”
Sometimes a solider straight from boot camp needs an ear, too. Sloan’s is always available. He adds, “You’re from the same fabric and they know that.”
If you are a veteran, person with a disability, or just someone looking for your next career move, visit VersAbility’s job page today and see what opportunities are waiting for you at jobs.versability.org.